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A Short-Handed Entrepreneur and Automating Professionalism

by Jill Foster on August 14, 2009

I have a certain relative who makes a point of telling me that he thinks I’m making the wrong career choices every time I see him. When I started freelancing, he told me I’d never be able to get a job after spending so much time that I wouldn’t be able to account for on my resume. When I expanded my business, he told me it was too bad I’d never make as much as I could with a ‘real job.’

(Image Truth Is Laughing- by MagerLeagues, Creative Commons)

No matter what I tell this relative about my business,
he’s convinced that I’m just playing around — and that I’m doomed to failure. Heck, the last time I saw him, he told me:

“I bet you wished you had gotten a job before the economy crashed. Things must be hurting for you now.” When I told him my business has actually increased during the recession, he didn’t believe me.

We all run into detractors like this:
People who have never worked on their own and who can’t even comprehend becoming an entrepreneur. Those people aren’t always family members, either: sometimes they can be clients who simply don’t think of working with a smaller company on many projects. I’ve seen it happen: a company goes with a Web design firm over a freelancer, because there’s a certain assumption that the firm can complete a new site and have it ready faster than a freelancer can.

For most entrepreneurs, fighting that sort of assumption is difficult.
The best we can do is act professionally and educate prospective clients on the benefits of working with us. Despite the difficulties, it’s been my experience that small businesses have to be more professional than larger companies — the virtue of having a larger business seems to be enough to convince some clients.

The receptionist, bookkeeper, and CEO
Present a suitable professional image, especially when the same person happens to be the receptionist, bookkeeper and CEO. It’s little things, like answering the phone with anything but “Yeah?” just as much as it’s big things, like getting projects in on time. I don’t have any perfect strategy for guaranteeing perfect professionalism 100 percent of the time. It is something that comes with practice.

All a short-handed entrepreneur can do is try to automate professionalism: I’ve got pre-written emails that I update, and I’m working on training myself into automatically answering my phone with a particular greeting.

I’ve also got a clear idea of what to tell people who suggest that operating my own business is crazy, especially if they’re clients I’d like to work with or family members I have to see on a regular basis.

More from:
Thursday Bram’s series at Women Grow Business.

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Guest post by Thursday Bram. Thursday offers content marketing through Hyper Modern Consulting, as well as more traditional writing services. She blogs about the shift between freelancing and business through her personal blog Thursday Bram and can be reached at www.twitter.com/thursdayb.

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